Poet laureate will speak at Bethany

BETHANY – Bethany College will celebrate 173 years as a small college of national distinction with its annual Founder’s Day on March 7, and the guest speaker will be Bethany alumnus and West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman.

Festivities will begin at 11 a.m. with the traditional Founder’s Day Convocation in historic Commencement Hall.

“The celebration of the founding of our great college will only be further enhanced by the presence and words of such a prestigious alumnus. Marc’s professional and personal accomplishments exemplify the model and tradition of Bethany,” said Scott Miller, Bethany College president.

Harshman is a long-time Wheeling resident, where he lives with his wife, Cheryl Ryan, who also is a writer, and their daughter Sarah. He earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from Bethany in 1973 and went on to receive a master’s degree in religion from Yale University and a master’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

Harshman was named West Virginia poet laureate by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last year following the death of Irene McKinney, the state’s former poet laureate.

Harshman has published 11 children’s stories and numerous poems for children and adults, drawing on his experiences growing up in Indiana and living in Appalachia’s foothills along the Ohio River.

Harshman’s awards include the West Virginia English Teacher of the Year, Parent’s Choice Award and West Virginia Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry. His poems have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

His book “Only One” was a Reading Rainbow review title on PBS TV. “The Storm” was selected for the Junior Library Guild and as a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children. He received the Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Collection Fellowship from the University of Minnesota for research on Scandinavian myth and folklore.

There also will be a wreath-laying ceremony at 1:30 p.m. at the gravesite of Alexander Campbell, the college’s founder and first president. Guests are invited to visit the Campbell Mansion, one of Bethany’s National Historic Landmarks, following the ceremony.

Founder’s Day at Bethany College is observed on the first Thursday of March. The college received its official charter from the Virginia Legislature on March 2, 1840. It was affirmed on June 20, 1863, by the Legislature of the newly formed state of West Virginia.